The Real Cleopatra: Brilliant Queen of Egypt


Upon the assassination of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra made haste back to Egypt, where she poisoned her second brother, Ptolemy XIV, whom she was obligated by tradition to marry and co-rule with following the death of Ptolemy XXIII. Accordingly, Cleopatra VII and Caesarion could become co-rulers of Egypt, and in Cleopatra’s mind, secure the fate her beloved homeland forever. But history, and destiny, had other ideas for Cleopatra.

With Rome’s military and political fates at a crossroads, Mark Antony, perhaps in an act of desperation, summoned Cleopatra to proclaim her loyalty to him or else. Mark Antony and Octavian were locked in a battle for the reigns of Rome, and having Cleopatra (and her army) on his side would no doubt have reinforced his military and his cause. Though married, Antony of course succumbed to Cleopatra’s wiles, just as Caesar before him. It wasn’t long before Antony had taken up with the Egyptian Queen and married her, with Cleopatra giving birth to a set of twins for him, and another son a few years later.

Though Cleopatra was loyal to and in love with Antony, she never lost sight of her ambitious goals. That is, she hoped that having Mark Antony (and his army) as an ally would cement her hopes to keep Egypt free. Cleopatra wanted to develop a huge Egyptian Empire, it seemed. She always kept her eyes on the prize, no matter what. However, this blinding love for Mark Antony obviously kept Cleopatra in the dark where his fidelity was concerned. For not only was he married to Fulvia before and during his marriage to Cleopatra, he then married yet another woman, Octavia, while still married to his other two wives.

While all of Antony’s traveling back and forth to his various wives was going on, Cleopatra continued to rule Egypt alongside her son Caesarion, all the while furthering her intellectual teachings. She also made sure her other children were as well learned as she was by hiring various tutors and philosophers into her organization. Eventually, Antony and Cleopatra decided to strike against Octavian, who had slowly been gathering the support of the Roman people. At the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., Octavian and his fleet cleaned their naval clocks, a situation which was probably not helped by the desertion of the two ill-fated lovers.

Octavian captured Egypt, where it became like his own private vacation spot. This certainly shattered any hope that Cleopatra might have had left for her royal future, or that of her children. Antony eventually died in his beloved Queen’s arms, and Cleopatra soon followed suit. According to legend (and perhaps history), Cleopatra, holding a deadly asp to her breast, desperate and shattered, she ended her life, and began a legendary voyage into the annals of ancient history.